In a comparison of hospital systems nationwide, Saint Luke’s Health System has found itself among the top 10 based on its patient satisfaction scores — scores that are beginning to affect hospitals’ bottom lines.
Fiscal year 2013 is the first year Medicare is tying patient satisfaction scores to their financial reimbursement in a program called value-based purchasing. One percent of every participating hospital’s Medicare revenues are withheld, and hospitals have the chance to earn them back — plus some extra — if they meet certain clinical and patient-satisfaction markers. Next year, the percentage withheld will increase.
“It’s really the beginnings of trying to pay for value in health care,” said Kathy Howell, chief nursing executive for Saint Luke’s Health System.
She said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services required hospitals to begin submitting this data in 2007 and that this has been a longstanding priority for the system, but this is the first year the results are tied to financial penalties.
Saint Luke’s used a third-party vendor, HealthStream, which used all of the publicly available patient satisfaction information to calculate the rankings. Saint Luke’s sits at No. 9, up from 12, alongside systems such as Baylor Health Care System and Mayo Health System.
Howell said the system has made it a priority for everyone to focus on improving those scores.
“Culturally, we’ve driven it in at the highest levels of our organization for a long time,” she said. “And it’s part of everyone’s performance review, from the CEO all the way down to the entry-level individual, so we all are evaluated on how we perform in the arena of our patients.”
Aside from making it an engrained cultural priority, Howell said the system has used other “tactical interventions” to improve its scores.
Those interventions include sitting down in patient rooms, rather than standing, to discuss patient needs; requiring nurses changing shifts to pass on patient information to the new nurse in the patient’s presence; and using data to target specific patient populations and hospital units that need additional help or follow-ups.
“This is just good for patients,” Howell said. “This means all the hospitals are really focusing on patient satisfaction, and that is good. That’s a good thing for the industry. It’s always challenging when another mandate comes, but continuing to improve this is the right thing to do for patients. And it will only continue to get tougher to hang in the top 10.”
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